A majority of members of a public committee guiding a study about the potential health risks of the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal’s coal terminal are recommending that the dock should not be built.
The Health Impact Assessment steering committee finalized its recommendations Friday but could not come up with a consensus among its 12 members. So the final report will include a minority opinion, said Nick Fazio, Cowlitz County Building and Planning long range planner.
The majority statement against the project was reached by a consensus and not by a straightforward, open vote, Fazio said.
Regna Merritt, co-director of Power Past Coal, attended the day-long meeting. She said the majority group concluded the negative health effects outweigh the potential benefits.
“As we went through the day trying to figure out what could be done to lessen negative impacts, it became clear we couldn’t mitigate severe impacts,” Merritt said.
The health assessment says there would likely be an increase in the number and severity of some types of diseases related to diesel emissions from locomotives, vessels and equipment. It also highlights other effects on health, noise, the economy, recreation and the environment.
The minority statement hasn’t been written yet, but Fazio said it will likely say the majority’s conclusion is outside the scope of the committee.
Millennium Bulk Terminals wants to build a $680 million coal export dock on 190-acres of the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter. The assessment states the terminal would create about 135 permanent jobs, according to Millennium. About 1,350 temporary construction jobs would be added.
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Committee member and Longview Councilman Mike Wallin said many residents want the project built and the majority group of the steering committee is biased against it. (See sidebar for a list of committee members.)
The health impact study does not have any specific legal authority and does not play a direct role in permitting decisions. County health and planning officials, who supervised the study, said it is intended a tool to help the community understand how the project would affect public health.
The committee helped guide the assessment, which was released early September and was directed by the county and state departments of health and county planning officials.
Fazio said the committee also finalized the draft recommendations Friday after making some changes. Those are undergoing revisions now and should be released in about three weeks.
“The recommendations are valuable and give guidance to elected officials and decision makers,” Fazio said.
Many of the recommendations suggest actions local governments can take for similar projects, regardless of the terminal’s future. Wallin said this is also outside the scope of the assessment, which he said should focus just on the proposed terminal.
“I support our recommendations, which are community and input driven,” Wallin said. “It’s just crazy to me these people would go through all that work just to say it’s not good enough.”
The committee will also host a two-hour open house in mid-November to allow the public to ask them questions about the documents. The exact date will be announced closer to the final document’s release.